By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Is this any way to run a railroad?

I’ve tried to be optimistic about Gov. Charlie Baker’s management of the MBTA. But there are some ominous signs that he’s less interested in creating a world-class public transportation system than he is in reducing costs for his non-T-riding supporters. Three examples:

    • As Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung notes, officials are getting ready to pull the plug on late-night service, which she calls “expensive, impractical, and yet aspiring and completely necessary.” (She compares them to Manolo Blahniks, which Google tells me are shoes.)
    • The MBTA has decided to cancel art works that were going to be installed along the Green Line Extension, a project that may cost $1 billion more than first thought. It’s a short-sighted move that indicates we don’t care about our public spaces.
    • The new commuter-rail schedule announced by Keolis includes significant cuts in service. A number of legislators have written to the T and Keolis to express their concerns. I had thought the reworked schedule was aimed at coming up with a rational timetable that Keolis could actually meet — not at drastically reducing the number of trains.

People are moving to the city and the inner suburbs because transportation from farther away — roads and highways as well as trains and buses — has fallen apart. Baker’s agenda raises the specter that it’s going to become harder and harder to get around in urban neighborhoods as well.

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


Lake Champlain


The Boston Phoenix’s archives are coming to Northeastern


  1. Larz Neilson

    You raise the matter of cancelling art works, and then jump to the possible billion dollar cost increase of the Green Line extension. I’m sure that the art would not be in ten figures, unless they were going to ransom the stolen works from the Gardiner. — Yes, this is probably an indicator of how Baker thinks about the T, but the art and the total cost should be separate discussions.

  2. Adam Gaffin

    Also don’t forget that one of the first things Baker did after taking office was to suspend plans to buy DMUs so that the Fairmount Line could get the subway-like service the state had been promising for years.

  3. Danny Roach

    This past Monday it was 43 degrees and not a cloud in the sky at 10 minute of 7 when I left my car to get on the 7AM train from Forge Park to Boston.

    We were told there would be a 10-15 minute delay by the crew on site.

    At 725AM we were told to get off the train as it would not be leaving and to take the next train departing the station which was a scheduled 745 departure.

    That train never showed so we were out back on the original 7 am scheduled departure.

    Meanwhile in the platform, the LED update board which the MBTA and Keolis raved about were telling us that the 635 AM train would be 10-15 minutes late departing – the actual time was now close to 8 AM.

    We finally left around 8 and we made our 1st stop at Franklin Dean college – we sat there for around 20 minutes or so as the crew tried to get the brake pressure up on the trains.

    We got moving and as we were departing Norwood Depot we stopped again for 20 mi Utes as the same brake problem occurred.

    We were than told that the train behind us would be coupling up with us and pushing us into Boston.

    We were pushed to Dedham Corporate Center where we sat for several minutes – than watched as an inbound train behind us went past the 2 coupled up trains.

    When a crew man was asked why we weren’t given the option to get on the less crowded train his response was a shoulder shrug AKA The Keolis Salute.

    We finally departed Dedham Corporate Center and docked at the platform at South Station at 1043 AM – nearly 4 hours after the train I got on the train in Franklin.

    You could have traveled via Acela to NYC in that same time frame.

    The lack of communication between the MBTA, the onboard crew and what was on the MBTA’s alert system on line was breathtaking to watch.

    No one ever apologized or ever said we are sorry.

    The purple vested Keolis customer servicee people at Sotuh Station offered no apology as well.

    I am concerned about what happens when the snow starts flying despite the seemingly empty promises from Baker and MASSDOT.

    Th ask for letting me rant.

    • calibloodz

      Keolis is a private company

      • Dan Kennedy

        @calibloodz: I am approving this comment despite the fact that you did not post it under your real name simply so that I can point out that Keolis is a private company that is a government contractor. It works for and reports to the MBTA, a government agency. And it can’t cut back on service without the T’s permission.

  4. Anyone with the misfortune of following me on Twitter knows how often I inveigh against the foibles of @MBTA_CR. But the reduction in service on my line (between Lawrence and Boston) from 24 trips t0 20 (including short lines), hardly seems onerous. In addition, the northbound rush-hour trains seem more sensibly scheduled. Cuts were inevitable and, at least from my perspective, seem workable as long as the conductors open more rail cars.

  5. mike benedict

    Two things. One, when a program is bleeding red ink, the prudent response is to reduce costs. That’s just basic management 101 stuff.

    The other, bigger question remains: Should the region invest in a more substantial train service. And the answer to that is, and always has been, not until there is a practical plan for that last mile of commute, and a responsible way to pay for it. Sad to say, it’s actually cheaper, and not by a small amount, and no slower (!) to commute from most North Shore towns into Boston via a fuel efficient car than it is to take the train. Investing billions into additional service (read: cars and the people to run them) will only further the cost gap.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén